Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
If you listened to any of President Biden’s State of the Union addresses, you may have been surprised to hear that inflation has slowed down. (Here’s Marie’s breakdown of the speech.)
A fact check from USA Today clarifies Biden’s claims:
Biden touted six straight months of slowing inflation, arguing that his policies are helping tame what has been the top domestic challenge of his presidency.
The president is correct that inflation is trending downward. Yet there are nuances.
- Consumer prices were still up 6.5% in December from a year earlier: Prices are trending down but Americans are still facing historically high costs of living. One household staple, eggs, cost 60% more than a year ago.
- Cost of living is high: Families are still struggling to pay high energy bills along with other rising costs for essential goods, like food and rent, that are increasing at a faster rate than the overall rate of inflation. Grocery prices rose 10.4% annually in December and rent rose about 7.5%, while overall inflation increased by 6.5%.
Of course, I’ve never heard a president give a SOTU address in which he didn’t try to spin his performance in the most positive light possible. Grabbing onto a statistic that supports their supposed good work as a leader is as universal as it is misleading.
Perhaps giant corporations are facing less inflation, but the average American is still struggling to make ends meet. Our reality is quite different than the one reported in that speech, no matter how much it’s repeated that everything is just fine.
What are food prices really like?
Time Magazine recently investigated the cost of food in America, and here’s what they found that belies the President’s statement that we’re doing a whole lot better economically.
Although overall inflation is starting to cool, shoppers haven’t seen much relief in terms of grocery prices, which were up 11.8% in December compared with a year earlier. Gone are the days when someone could walk into a grocery store and buy a dozen eggs for $1.50 or a gallon of milk for under $3. Instead, nearly every food group costs more than it did a year ago: grade A eggs are up 138%; margarine, up 43.8%; butter sticks, up 38.5%; all-purpose flour, up 34.5%; and spaghetti and macaroni noodles up 31.3%, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.
When you apply the increases across an entire cart of groceries, we’re paying hundreds of dollars more for the same food.
Why is the price of food so high?
It appears we’ve been weathering the perfect storm – if by “perfect” we mean economically catastrophic.
First, there are all of the issues that remain after the pandemic devastated the economy. Farmers cut back on food production to keep afloat, and now the laws of supply and demand mean that the same butter costs 31% more than it did a year ago.
Then there’s the avian flu epidemic. This has seen the poultry population decline, obviously reducing the supply of meat and eggs. Eggs are the one thing that has seen the most dramatic increase – they’re up a whopping 138%.
Bad weather has also affected the food supply. Everything from droughts to floods to insect-borne viruses has decimated fruits and vegetables. The Time report says:
…a wholesale box of romaine, which would normally cost around $10 to $20, was being sold for nearly $90 in November and December.
As well, our supply chain never fully recovered after the Covid pandemic decimated it.
When will things get better?
It’s really difficult to say when the price of food will go back down. We’re in such a precarious situation that any issue could cause more increases, but at the same time, it’s possible that it nothing bad happens, we could also begin seeing some decreases. Time reports that there’s no clear-cut answer to the question that’s on everyone’s mind.
Analysts say that there’s no straight answer on when grocery prices will drop as it relies on a number of factors, including post-pandemic consumer demand, ongoing supply chain shortages, geopolitical events such as the war in Ukraine, and unstable weather patterns.
But many of these key factors fueling inflation are starting to fade—meaning prices should stabilize this year, even if they may never go back down to pre-pandemic levels. Shipping costs are declining and Americans are purchasing less as they feel the pinch of inflation. Tom Bailey, senior analyst of consumer foods with Rabobank, predicts that prices will soften up in early 2023 as we “revert back to more improved production and more reasonable demand.”
Still, there’s a possibility that some prices continue to rise. “If the last 24 months have told us anything, don’t ever assume that things can’t change or get away from us,” he says.
In my opinion, we’re better off expecting the worst (continuing increases) while hoping for the best (some relief from the inflation.)
The CEO of Walmart had more to say about the future of food prices.
Walmart Inc. CEO Doug McMillon called inflation in dry grocery and consumables “stubborn, mid-double digit,” saying “those are going to just be with us for a while.”
“And it’ll get a little confusing because you’ll hear inflation numbers that start to sound lower, but you’ll have to remember, that’s on a two-year stack,” he continued. “So if inflation in dry grocery and consumables is only three or five, that’s on top of 15. And that’s still a problem for the customer and a pressure in their wallet.”
According to McMillon, the situation was different in the fresh food categories. He told analysts and investors to “think of the fresh categories as kind of bouncing around, going up and down, and being more volatile.”
Eggs, he noted, were “at 200% inflated in January” but have since dropped to “just 50% inflated,” something he said is “still a problem.” Meanwhile, milk “is actually less than a year ago,” and beef “is lower in terms of pricing” as well, McMillon said.
Walmart remains profitable, with the company doing well when people have extra money, and maintaining growth when times are tight by offering “value.”
Make the most of what you can afford
The goal here is for us to focus on our own households and make the most of the food we can afford. We need to use multiple strategies to do this, all of which I included in detail in my most recent book, What to Eat When You’re Broke.
Don’t waste food. Make sure you reduce the amount of food that spoils before you get to it. As well you should learn to use leftovers creatively. Some people don’t enjoy eating leftovers but by reinventing them in delicious ways, not only will your family eat them, they’ll love them. Turn them into hearty soups, pastry pockets, and flavorfully made-over meals.
Eat cheap meals. Dial back the price on at least one meal per day. Sure, we’d all love to have delicious, healthy, fresh meals three times a day. But we’d also like to keep the electricity on. By making one meal daily as inexpensive as possible, you can greatly stretch your food budget. I often do two meals and a snack as opposed to three squares. Breakfast is generally eggs, toast, and juice or an apple, (not outrageous, even with the price of eggs), dinner is a bigger meal, and at some point, I eat something that costs around a dollar. That might be a can of tuna with mayo, peanut butter and crackers, or a piece of fruit.
Time is money. If you’re putting in lots of hours making ends meet, getting the kids to and from their activities, and maybe even working a side gig, getting dinner on the table might be a challenge some nights. Those are the nights that a lot of people throw in the towel (and the budget) and end up hitting the drive-through or ordering pizza out of desperation and exhaustion. It’s important to have some delicious shortcuts that you can get on the table quickly. These might cost a little more money than a carefully curated scratch meal, but they’ll still be way less than taking the whole family out to dinner, even at the cheapest place in town.
Plan ahead. Also, speaking of those desperate drive-through dinners, another way to avoid them is by planning ahead when you can. Use your crock pot, do meal prep on the weekends, and get your next meal set when you put your leftovers away in the fridge. If you can make your homemade meal more convenient, then you won’t be as tempted to blow the budget.
Learn to use different foods in your menus. A lot of us prefer healthy meals bursting with fresh produce, lean meats, and whole grains. And while these foods are quite ideal, they’re also very expensive, particularly when fruit and veggies are out of season. Provide balance to your diet by using well-seasoned canned produce, tuna, dried beans, and other less expensive staples. Believe it or not, there are very tasty ways to eat these things that your family will love. You can dramatically decrease the cost of your meals by working in some of these ingredients. You just have to make them taste good enough that your family won’t waste them.
These are just a few strategies I wrote about in detail, and they helped me survive some really hard times as a single working mom on a very tight budget. Grab the book for as little as $2.
How are you handling the rising price of food?
Is the price of food going up in your area? What items, in particular, have given you sticker shock lately? How are you managing your food budget these days? Share your most startling prices and best ideas in the comments.
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites. 1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2) The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.
Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.